Kristina Lerman

The Role of Social Media in the Discussion of Controversial Topics

TitleThe Role of Social Media in the Discussion of Controversial Topics
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsL. M. Smith, L. Zhu, K. Lerman, and Z. Kozareva
Conference NameASE/IEEE International Conference on Social Computing

In recent years, social media has revolutionized how people communicate and share information. Twitter and other blogging sites have seen an increase in political and social activism. Previous studies on the behaviors of users in politics have focused on electoral candidates and election results. Our paper investigates the role of social media in discussing and debating controversial topics. We apply sentiment analysis techniques to classify the position (for, against, neutral) expressed in a tweet about a controversial topic and use the results in our study of user behavior. Our findings suggest that Twitter is primarily used for spreading information to like-minded people rather than debating issues. Users are quicker to rebroadcast information than to address a communication by another user. Individuals typically take a position on an issue prior to posting about it and are not likely to change their tweeting opinion.

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